A growing number of restaurant operators are taking interest in a proposition to be decided by California voters on Tuesday that would require the labeling of some genetically modified foods.
Proposition 37, the Mandatory Labeling of Genetically Modified Food Act, is designed to give consumers more information about foods and products that contain genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. A high percentage of corn, soybeans and sugar beets used in processed foods in the U.S. are genetically modified.
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The measure would apply to labels on supermarket foods, primarily, and restaurants would not be required to disclose the presence of GMO ingredients on menus. However, restaurant operators say the proposal has raised awareness of GMOs among consumers, and now it’s an issue they must also address.
Some operators say labeling would help them know what ingredients are genetically engineered — though they’re not necessarily going to avoid them when purchasing products for their restaurants.
“The jury’s still out on GMOs,” said Mary Sue Milliken, co-owner of the multi-unit Border Grill based in Los Angeles. “They may be the next best thing that will save the world and feed the hungry. I don’t think we know one way or the other. But it’s important to know what you’re buying.”
Prop. 37 is officially opposed by the California Restaurant Association, based on a vote by the group’s political action committee board. “We think it’s poor policy, not based on sound science,” said Matt Sutton, CRA’s vice president of government affairs.
Opponents of Prop. 37 — which include large food companies producing consumer and foodservice goods — argue that the labeling requirement is deceptive and would mislead consumers about the safety of biotechnology, which has been in use for two decades. In addition, opponents say that approval of the measure would result in higher grocery bills, as well as open up farmers and other businesses to lawsuits, and increase the state’s bureaucracy and red tape.
Supporters of Prop. 37, on the other hand, disagree on all counts. The long-term safety of GMO use has not been adequately studied, they contend, and labeling will allow consumers to decide for themselves whether to buy, or avoid, such foods.
A growing foodservice issue
Prop. 37 has already had an impact on the foodservice industry nationwide — even before the vote. Denver-based Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., with 1,300 units, for example, is moving away from genetically modified ingredients. In reporting third-quarter results last month, Chipotle officials said the company is expanding the use of GMO-free sunflower oil and testing a GMO-free rice bran oil to eventually replace the conventionally produced soybean oil used currently.
Steve Ells, the company's co-chief executive, said, “With California’s Prop. 37 on the ballot, the subject of GMOs is becoming a bigger part of the conversation about food-related issues. And we’re pleased to be ahead of the curve looking for non-GMO options to replace the ingredients we use that are genetically modified.”
California’s Prop 37 Scandal: Resolution and Healing Amid the Corruption
After elections we learned of the scandal claiming that the results of Prop 37 were announced prematurely and perhaps incorrectly.
Then we discovered the official record from the California Secretary of State for all the uncounted votes, amounting to 3,334,495. Many people have begun to hope that we could still win this thing, including myself. So tonight I crunched the numbers, hoping to discover that our labeling law could be saved from demise.
I totalled all the votes remaining to be counted for the blue districts/precincts (those we won) at this link.
This total is approximately 1,437,080 votes. This is not even half of the total reported remaining votes (3,334,495) to be counted. So, about 1.9 million of the uncounted votes are from precincts/districts we DID NOT win (the tan-orange areas).
Since we have no real landslide victories in any of the precincts we won, that ALSO have large numbers of uncounted votes (like Humboldt County), and of the remaining 1.9 million or so in the precincts we did NOT win, many of those DID beat us by landslide numbers (great disparity ratio of No to Yes), this means that when the all the votes are counted, we will likely lose by even more.
Sorry to be the bringer of bad news, unless my reasoning or math is wrong (please tell me it is!), but this reasoning tells the likely outcome, barring an anomaly that rather grossly disobeys the averages already recorded.
California’s central valley, home to GMO corn and GMO cotton fields, cattle living in squalid conditions, and its filthy, polluted air through which the sun barely shines did us in. This chemical wasteland fittingly won the Prop 37 race in a vote to ensure, for now, the continued spread of this environmental abomination.
So, we should assume that labeling of GMOs in California is not happening for now, even as we demand due diligence to count and record each last vote.
While the State of California counts and records the rest of the votes, we should focus our efforts on what is next. What is immediately next is for each and every one of us (that means you) to bolster efforts not to buy GMO foods while we support other states like Washington to get their GMO labeling ballot initiatives rolling.
Video: Beverly Goldie Facilitator GMO Awareness Group (Washington GMO Labeling)
I think it’s better to be realistic, attuned to what is likely (while demanding due diligence nonetheless for all votes to be counted), rather than have and foster false hope, which can put many of us who just experienced huge disappointment through unnecessary sadness, upset, and misdirected energy again. And if we do win, by some miracle, hallelujah! So best to re-focus on the next better possibility with renewed energy and hope.
We are growing in numbers now, and after the heartbreaking loss, we are growing stronger than ever before, just as a broken bone becomes stronger than before as it heals. So many more of us are finally outraged and finally beginning to feel the true injustice of GMOs through education and personal experience. This outrage is what fuels change and justice. We should embrace this upset and channel it into right action.
We will win, and when we do, we will drive the opposition as equally far away from our well-being, from our blood streams, from our children’s future as they have encroached and violated us for way too long. Join the resistance, embody the solution by choosing organic, always! Do it for revenge, for justice, for what’s right.
Please join these non-GMO groups for the latest updates, lively discussions, and to become part of the solution to eradicate GMOs in America and around the world.
Please also learn and share these simple steps to avoid and eradicate GMOs. Now is our time.
Here are the top contributors that defeated Prop 37. Don’t buy any of their junk!
- MONSANTO COMPANY – $8,112,069
- E.I. DUPONT DE NEMOURS & CO. – $5,400,000
- PEPSICO, INC. – $2,145,400
- GROCERY MANUFACTURERS ASSOCIATION – $2,002,000
- BASF PLANT SCIENCE – $2,000,000
- BAYER CROPSCIENCE – $2,000,000
- DOW AGROSCIENCES LLC – $2,000,000
- SYNGENTA CORPORATION – $2,000,000
- KRAFT FOODS GLOBAL, INC. – $1,950,500
- NESTLE USA, INC. – $1,461,600
- COCA-COLA NORTH AMERICA – $1,455,500
- GENERAL MILLS, INC. – $1,230,300
- CONAGRA FOODS – $1,176,700
- KELLOGG COMPANY – $790,700
- SMITHFIELD FOODS, INC. – $683,900
- DEL MONTE FOODS COMPANY – $674,100
- CAMPBELL SOUP COMPANY – $598,000
Genetically Modified Foods Might be Voted Out on Election Day
Election Day in November will determine more than who will sit in the Oval Office for the next four years, it also has the potential to set a major precedent to changes in our food system. Among other things, California’s Proposition 37 would require mandatory labeling for genetically modified foods.
Proponents say that there is ample evidence showing that genetically modified (G.M.) foods can be toxic, allergenic, and less nutritious than processed and genetically engineered foods. They believe that everyone has a right to know whether or not their food contains G.M. ingredients. For a deeper look into the evidence, check out a report published this summer by Earth Opensource, which examines the safety of G.M. crops.
It’s clear that the local and organic food movement could be growing faster than the food industry as a whole. The amazing Organic Food Guide’s map reveals farms, restaurants, and markets where we can find local and organic food in Boston and throughout Massachusetts. But despite these food market trends, Michael Pollan points out in his recent New York Times piece that this election will also determine “… whether or not there is a ‘food movement’ in America worthy of the name — that is, an organized force in our politics capable of demanding change in the food system.”
Passing bills that affect big food industry is no easy task, especially when big companies like Sara Lee and the Sugar Association have filed petitions to keep labels like “natural” undefined. To get a sense of just how powerful the food industry’s hold is over legislation, consider the results of a survey conducted by The Mellman Group: It showed that across the United States, regardless of political affiliation, more than 90 percent of people are in favor of the labeling of genetically engineered foods. Yet the passing of Prop 37 is not a sure bet.
If Prop 37 passes in California, it will set the precedent for others states to adopt similar legislation. If Massachusetts were to adopt a similar law, we would not see changes to dairy, meat, alcohol, or any restaurant foods because those are exempt from the bill as it’s written. We would, however, see changes at the supermarket as all raw or processed foods that are intentionally and knowingly genetically modified must be labeled as such. Labeling or advertising foods with genetically modified components as “natural” would be prohibited. The Grocery Manufacturers Association estimates that 75 to 80 percent of conventionally processed food in the U.S. contains genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The same study also says that 58 percent of Americans are unaware of GMOs. Basically, more than half of us have no idea what we are eating.
Some experts who oppose Prop 37 believe that many food manufacturers will respond to the labeling law by reformulating their ingredients to non-GMOs in order to avoid putting the label on products. The result would be higher food costs.
Personally, I will gladly fork over a bit more money for safe, quality ingredients, and for peace of mind. Prop 37 is a huge win for the food movement.
What do you think about GMOs and Prop 37? Are you for this kind of legislation in Massachusetts?
Seeds of Inspiration: California's Prop 37
was 1985: the era of Madonna, the Reagan administration, and first Millenials.
It was also the year that The US Patent and Trademark Office first passed a
patent allowing seeds and seed-bearing plants to be patentable. The generation born in
that era would be the first to witness the
rise of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), from laboratory to field to the
forward to 2012. Barely two weeks remain before California decides on the
heated Proposition 37, a ballot initiative requiring the labeling of products
containing GMO ingredients. As Hyphen blogger Nancy Wei explained, GMO
critics are concerned about its impacts on health, farmers, agriculture, and
the environment, and insist consumers have the right to make informed food
choices. GMO products currently do not require labeling in the US, although
many developed countries -- including Japan, Taiwan, and the European Union --
matter where people stand on the issue, Prop 37 is significant. It could send a
ripple effect throughout California (called “America’s salad bowl” for the
amount of fresh fruits and vegetables that are grown there), and into the rest
of the country. Given its past, we can be sure that the GMO debate will
continue beyond this initiative, no matter the outcome.
communities are woven deeply in the history of California’s food and
agricultural landscape. So where do our communities stand on GMOs?
up alongside the rise of GMOs is a new generation of Asian/Americans who claim
a voice in the future of food. I spoke with Robin David and Angela Angel, two San Francisco cultural workers whose
politically-infused artwork often touches on issues in the environment. Their most recent, eye-catching series “Free Our Seeds: Seeds Are
Free” focuses on
the danger to seeds, or what Angela calls “the nucleus of life.”
I’m noticing several of your recent pieces
center around food and biotechnology. What inspired this?
Robin: We decided to prioritize food and land in our work. Our
last project was on water, and our work tends to reflect the most pressing
issues of the time. Both of us come from community organizing
backgrounds. With the rising fight against agribusinesses such as Monsanto and
Syngenta, we decided our theme for this latest series would be seeds.
Angela: I've spent time in parts of the world where agribusiness
mortally affects local communities. In India, I stayed with Adivasi
cotton farmers as the farmer suicide rate climbed by the thousands. I
lived in Mexico and witnessed how the rise of corn prices, and the monopoly of
corn produced for ethanol instead of for food, affected tortilla prices. Living
outside of the States helped me see just how these decisions directly affect
What do you see as
your role in connecting people, and in particular, AAPI communities, with
farming and food issues?
peoples came from a land-based society. So everyone should be involved with
food! Food is one of our most intimate relationships in several interconnected
directions. I realized from a very young age that I wanted an intimate
relationship with my food. It's basic, but the world is so fast and
disconnected that this simple relationship has been strained. With our most recent piece about corn, I've realized how
profound the cycle I have with corn is: I grow it. I eat it. I make art
out of it. I fight for it. As the Maya embody: "We are
people of the corn."
My dad grew up in a farm. Many Filipino/Americans like us come from a
lineage of farmers, who tilled the land and produced the food on their plates.
Here in America, where farming is not encouraged, we have lost that intuition,
that labor of love, that control and awareness of where our food really comes
from. I want us to remember that past, and imply that in our present.
GMOs are an especially heated issue right now,
especially in California. If you had just one sentence to express your
feelings about GMO labeling of foods, what would you say?
I want to know what I’m putting in my body!
met this woman working on the Prop 37 campaign and she was wearing the best
shirt. It said: "GMO OMG WTF are we eating?" 'Nuff said.
can find “Free Our Seeds: Seeds Are Free” at Mama’s Art Café, 4754 Mission
Street, San Francisco.
The Paradox in Prop 37's Failure: Labels, Lies and Learning to Cook for Ourselves
But, Proposition 37lifornia&aposs 2012 ballot measure which would have required labeling foods containing genetically modified ingredients—had it passed in last week&aposs election, would have been a monumental starting point in addressing the issues surrounding the rampant use of GMOs in our food supply, which are virtually unregulated and only marginally tested for human health and environmental safety.
George Carlin eloquently (and graphically) reminded us once that everything is indeed natural𠅊ll we make comes from the earth—including plastic and pollution, pesticides, biotechnology, and, even the human greed driving these industries. And, of course, so is the disdain many Americans feel about the risks connected with GMOs and the desire to simply know which foods specifically contain the questionable ingredients. What Carlin&aposs brilliant mind could have also helped us to deduce is just exactly what we can do about the disparity between corporate agendas and our ability to exercise some kind of sovereignty over what goes onto our plates.
While millions of voters made every effort to pass this measure to help California become the first state to label genetically engineered foods (more than 60 countries already have similar regulations in place), with less than $10 million in funding, the Yes on 37 campaign went up against a budget nearly five times that courtesy of the usual suspects: Monsanto, Dow, DuPont, Bayer, Kraft, Proctor & Gamble, Coca-Cola and so on. These household name brands that spend billions of dollars in marketing efforts designed to convince us that they have our best interests at heart, weren&apost even honest in the attempts to defeat the measure. They positioned it as the "costly food label bill," never mentioning the fundamental issue𠅎ven to assure consumers that GMOs are just as safe as non-GMO foods. Instead, the "No on 37" camp preyed upon fears that food prices would go up and that shopping would become more difficult and more confusing. In other words: they lied.
Granted, the bill wasn&apost ideal. Meat, eggs and dairy made from animals raised on GMO grain diets would not have had to be labeled, despite the fact that they&aposre some of the most commonly purchased items. Some of the tactics used by the California Right to Know campaign were as deceptive or misleading as the opposition (KCET cites a "ham or human" image that went viral on Facebook). But regardless, "Huge numbers of people became aware for the first time that they were eating GMOs—we have changed the whole conversation," said leading expert on GMOs, Jeffrey Smith. At the very least, Prop 37 would have helped consumers who have, by no fault of their own, become so entrenched in a processed food system that they simply don&apost even know where to begin pulling themselves out.
Not only do most average consumers not yet have the eye for spotting GMOs (which, surprisingly, is not as difficult as it may seem), they don&apost even really know how to cook for themselves without the help of Hamburger Helper or other meal mixes that actually don&apost shave much time off of meal preparation, but rather just reduce the amount of ingredients and interaction necessary. "Box meals don&apost save us time any more than going out to eat does, and they don&apost even save us money. What they do instead is remove the need to have to come up with a plan for dinner, something that&aposs easy when you&aposre a skilled cook𠅊nd bafflingly difficult when you&aposre not," wrote Tracie McMillan in her stunning book "The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Wal-Mart, Applebee&aposs, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table" (Scribner 2012).
The issue for most consumers is modernity&aposs fundamental relationship with corporate food. As Michael Pollan said, "It turns out corporations don&apost cook very well, and the cost of letting them try—to our health and the health of our families and communities—is far too high." Labeling genetically modified foods would make shopping for GMO-free foods easier. There&aposs no doubt about that. But, at its core, the bill also still perpetuates an industry that is inherently flawed and problematic for our health and the heath of our environment and farming communities. Do we really want corporate food making up the majority of our diet?
The victory in Prop 37&aposs failure is that if there was any doubt before, there should be no question now that corporations they seed and pesticide giants like Monsanto or multinational food brand conglomerates like Kraft or Nestlere more about money and their own success than whether or not their products are making people sick. They didn&apost honestly address the ballot issue at hand in and they don&apost have any intention of labeling GMOs because they know people would stop eating them.
Do that anyway. Eat organic. Shop at farmers markets and get to know your local growers. Plant a garden, no matter how small. Buy ingredients and make meals. Share food with your community, friends and family. Cook together. Teach each other. Enjoy food as more than just a basic human need enjoy it also as a catalyst for happiness, health, connection to the earth, and as a tool in creating social and agricultural change.
Cooking is the one tradition we all share, no matter our ethnicity, religion or nationality. It transcends all barriers and can connect us like little else.
Corporations can&apost yet stop us from chopping vegetables or peeling fruits, eating whole grains, nuts, seeds and beans—the foods that also just happen to be considerably more healthy for us than the boxed, packaged stuff, no matter what the labels might say.
We don&apost need a labeling law in order avoid GMOs. We need a basic understanding of where they are and just how easy it is to prepare fresh, whole ingredients on our own and without the help of corporate processed foods that contain labels full of unhealthy ingredients beyond the genetically modified ones. Reclaim your food. Start today.
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Prop 37 Defeated in California
California officials have announced that Proposition 37, which would have required the labeling of GMO ingredients on all foods, has been defeated by a 53 percent vote.
Proponents of the measure claim that a barrage of allegedly misleading advertisements paid for by major biotechnology companies and food producers are to blame for the measure&aposs defeat.
"Corporations that produce both the genetically engineered crops and their designer pesticides, in concert with the multi-billion-dollar food manufacturers that use these ingredients, fought this measure tooth and nail, throwing $46 million at the effort that would have required food manufacturers to include informational labeling on GMO content on their packaging," said Mark A. Kastel, Co-director of The Cornucopia Institute, in a statement.
Groups opposed to GMOs had hoped that by passing the bill in California, which consumes nearly 10 percent of the nation&aposs food, manufacturers would distributed labeled products to other states, and that other state governments and perhaps the federal government would follow California in requiring the label.
"If corporations truly believed that genetically engineering our food supply is in society&aposs best interest, they should be happy for consumers to know which foods contain their genetically engineered materials," said Kastel.
The fight over Prop 37 turned out to be a battle between David and Goliath as the corporations opposed to the measure, including Monsanto, poured $46 million dollars into advertising to defeat it. Independent and natural food producers and groups in support of the measure, by contrast, only raised a fraction of that in support of the measure, causing many, including the Cornucopia Institute, to call out major corporations like Whole Foods Markets and Dean Foods (which owns the Horizon Organic and Silk brands) which didn&apost support the measure, or supported it only nominally. Whole Foods, bowing to pressure from the industry, contributed $25,000 to the campaign only days before the election.
Currently, to avoid GMO&aposs in food, you can look for the Certified Organic or Non-GMO Verified labels.
"Organic foods are already required by federal law to be free from genetic engineering," says Steven Sprinkel, an organic farmer in Ojai, California who fought for Prop 37&aposs passage. "And the icing on the organic cake is that certified organic foods are also grown without a long list of dangerous and toxic chemicals and pesticides, hormones, antibiotics and other drugs that are routinely used in conventional agriculture."
How foodservice fared on local ballot measures
Now that all of the votes are in and the results have been tabulated, the foodservice industry can measure how well it fared in the recent national election.
And with such key issues as paid sick leave, tax reform, labor policy and food issues put forward as ballot initiatives in several areas, some operators had a lot riding on the vote.
The National Restaurant Association kept tabs on the measures that could have a potential impact on daily foodservice operations, according to the NRA&rsquos vice president of state and local affairs, Brendan Flanagan.
Issues that came up for a vote on Nov. 6 included:
Minimum wage and labor measures
&bull Residents of Albuquerque, N.M., cast their votes on a measure seeking to increase the minimum wage by $1 to $8.50 per hour. The measure also sought to hike the minimum wage for tipped employees from the current $2.13 an hour to 60 percent of the minimum wage level. Both wages would be tied to any increases in inflation and examined every year. The initiative was challenged by the NRA&rsquos Restaurant Advocacy Fund. Result: Passed.
&bull Voters in San Jose, Calif., decided whether to pass a measure that would increase the minimum wage from $8 to $10 an hour. The San Jose initiative was indexed to inflation, which allows it to rise proportionately over time. Result: Passed.
&bull A ballot question in Long Beach, Calif., addressed both the minimum wage and the sick leave questions for a group of hotel workers. While it only impacted employees at 15 of Long Beach&rsquos hotels, the measure sought to increase the minimum wage for those individuals to $13 an hour and be indexed to the inflation rate. It also provided employees with five days of sick leave. Result: Passed.
&bull Voters in Alabama weighed in on Amendment 7, a ballot initiative proposing that only secret ballots be used on votes that would allow unions to form in the workplace. Proponents said it would give employees more protection from intimidation and pressure. Result: Passed.
Taxes and food labeling measures
&bull Richmond, Calif., and El Monte, Calif., both introduced ballot initiatives that would levy a one-cent-per-ounce tax on sodas and sugar-sweetened beverages in an effort to help combat the rising obesity problem. Result: Both defeated.
&bull South Dakota residents voted on Measure 15, a ballot initiative that sought to add 1 cent to the sales tax on retail transactions. The funds raised by the tax would have been used to fund education and Medicaid. Result: Defeated.
&bull On Nov. 6 residents voted on California&rsquos Proposition 37, which would require labeling for all food items that include genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. The measure also sought to prohibit labeling or advertising such food as being natural. Result: Defeated.
Contact Paul Frumkin at [email protected] .
Follow him on Twitter: @NRNPaul
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Anti-Prop 37 TV Commercial Pulled in California
A controversial television ad in opposition to Proposition 37, the bill that could make California the first U.S. state to require labeling of foods containing genetically modified ingredients, was pulled earlier this week.
The television spot in question featured a Stanford University professor and the founding director of the FDA Office of Technology, Dr. Henry I. Miller M.D. According to attorneys for the Proposition 37 campaign, Stanford&aposs presence on the screen violates the university&aposs own policy, which bans the use of university staff or name by consultants.
Miller, who is not a Stanford professor but a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, a think tank based on Stanford&aposs campus, has spoken out against the measure, saying the labeling requirements "make no sense," because if the measure passes, it would only require labeling on certain foods containing GMOs, while leaving others unmarked, such as meat, eggs and dairy that came from animals fed GMO grains.
Ultimately, the university agreed with the Proposition 37 campaign, according to spokesperson, Lisa Lapin, who told the LA Times that Stanford&aposs name and campus (in the background of the video) will be removed from the ad because the university "doesn’t take any positions on candidates or ballot measures, and we do not allow political filming on campus.”
How To Find Out If Your Produce Is GMO
The International Federation For Produce Standards wants you to know how your food was grown. The organization formed under the name International Federation for Produce Coding in 2001 with the goal of improving the supply chain efficiency of the fresh produce industry through developing and implementing international standards. Its sticker program lets you know for certain whether your food is conventional, GMO or organic. Oh wait, we don’t label our GMOs (China does, though).
1,300 produce items worldwide currently hold price look-up (PLU) codes that are also used to indicate how they were grown. A number 9 in front of the four-digit code lets you know your pear is organic, 8 indicates GMO, and conventionally grown produce will fall somewhere in the 3 to 4000’s. For instance, the international code for guava is 4299. So 94011 means an organic guava. Unless you live in America. Russia’s cool, though.
According to the IFPS website, some codes are restricted from use in North America “for various reasons,” and are impossible to incorporate into the North American market, particularly in Southeastern growing regions like Florida. I’m no produce market analyst, but I’m guessing this is where our lack of labels on GMOs plays in. Good thing Australia doesn’t have that problem.